A Report on Visit to Uzbekistan as International Election Observer and Discussions with Uzbek Think Tanks
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Had a Bilateral meeting with Dr Daniyor Kurbanov, Director, The Centre for International Relations under the MFA of Uzbekistan .JPG

Uzbekistan held its Sixth Presidential Elections on October 24, 2021, where the author had participated as an International Observer from India. During the visit to Uzbekistan, one also had an opportunity to have a discussion with Uzbek Think Tanks, which are partner institutions of Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). Given below is the report on salient points of discussions with Uzbek Think Tanks on India-Uzbekistan bilateral relations, SCO, connectivity, Afghanistan, and India-Central Asia historical relations.

I. Presidential Elections

On October 24, 2021, Uzbekistan held presidential elections. This was Uzbekistan’s sixth presidential election since the country’s independence. Preliminary results released by the Central Election Commission declared incumbent President Shavkat Mirziyoyev as a winner for the second term with a majority of 80.1 percent of the vote, followed by two runner-ups: Maqsuda Vorisova of the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (XDP) and Alisher Qodirov of the Uzbekistan National Revival Democratic Party (Milliy Tiklanish).

Following the death of its First President Islam Karimov on September 2, 2016, a presidential election was held. According to Uzbekistan’s Constitution, the election had to be placed within three months of Karimov’s death. The elections, which international observers and the media criticised as a charade with a “lack of a true opposition” among the presidential contenders, were won by Acting President Shavkat Mirziyoyev with 90% of the vote.

Mirziyoyev was widely expected to win (officially) by a large margin. His win has shown that the people of Uzbekistan have voted for the multifaceted reforms and developments that he has initiated since coming into power in 2016.

His domestic and foreign policy approach has created an amicable environment in the Central Asian region. Uzbekistan’s effort to create a new and Young Uzbekistan has become a reality under his leadership. Socio-economic development, press and religious freedom, enhanced intra-regional and foreign trade are some of the positive achievements of his regime. President Mirziyoyev’s re-election has also enhanced prospects of regional development in Central Asia. It may be hoped that the pace of development in Uzbekistan will remain consistent in the coming years, and it will further consolidate Uzbekistan’s role as a regional leader in Central Asia.

The elections were peaceful and smooth. The voter turnout was also satisfactory. However, the western observers termed the election as a formality in the absence of any real opposition. Two prominent opposition figures had declared their intention to run against Mirziyoyev. Still, the authorities repeatedly refused registration for their candidature parties. One of the candidates, celebrity singer Jahongir Otajonov who was backed by the banned Erk Democratic Party (EDP), was withdrawn from the race due to apparent political pressure.

II. Discussion with Development Strategy Centre (DSC)

The author had a fruitful discussion with Mr. Eldor Tulyakov, Director of DSC. The Development Strategy Center is a think tank established in February 2017 to conduct research to inform and coordinate the implementation of Uzbekistan’s National Action Strategy 2017-2021. The DSC plays a policy advisor role and has a convening power to engage different stakeholders in dialogues regarding the country’s democratization and modernization. The National Action Strategy is part of a set of ambitious reforms being pursued by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, including enacting laws to fight corruption, liberalising the currency market, and improving the investment climate in Uzbekistan.

Some Important points emerged from the discussion-

  • Mr. Tulyakov mentioned that China has been proactive in utilizing consistent engagements with think tanks like DSC and others. Regular interaction is highly required between VIF and DSC to discuss the issues of India-Uzbekistan bilateral cooperation with an emphasis on trade, economy, and Connectivity.
  • Multilateral discussions, including VIF and think tanks from Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries, may also be profitable.
  • With the changing business environment in Uzbekistan, there are plenty of opportunities for cooperation between India and Uzbekistan, and our institutions can play a crucial role in this regard.
Follow Up-
  • A joint discussion on the current status of India-Uzbekistan Relations.
  • A Webinar to explore the dimensions of Trade and Economic Cooperation and Connectivity between the two countries.
III. Discussion with Centre for international Relations Studies (CIRS) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan

There was a detailed discussion with Mr. Daniyar Kurbanov, Director, Center for International Relations Studies, on multiple issues pertaining to the bilateral and regional importance.
Some important points of the discussion-

Afghanistan
  • Mr. Kurbanaov highlighted that abandoning Afghanistan is not a solution to the problem, but it will lead to more critical issues such as the humanitarian crisis.
  • Uzbekistan is providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, and they also want India to extend its humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. Uzbekistan can be used as a transit point for sending India’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
  • We both agreed that a discussion on Afghanistan is highly required on a bilateral and multilateral level between Indian and Central Asian think tanks.
  • In response to Mr. Kurbanov’s question on India’s Afghanistan policy post-Taliban takeover, it was brought out that India is closely watching the situation in Afghanistan. New Delhi’s position regarding the Taliban regime in Kabul is clear, which demands an inclusive government and a secure and stable environment in the country.
  • It may be surmised that Uzbekistan has security-related interests in Afghanistan, and economic interests play a crucial role in determining Tashkent’s Afghan policy.
  • Mr. Kurbanov concluded the discussion by stating that Central and South Asia should cooperate more closely in the development and security sphere, which should be seen as an opportunity to stabilize Afghanistan.
India-Uzbekistan Relations
  • India-Central Asia’s historical connection needs to be explored by joint study.
  • India and Uzbekistan should develop more cooperation on connectivity.
  • Uzbekistan has assumed the chairmanship of SCO for the next year. This may be used as an opportunity by both Tashkent and New Delhi to develop more cooperation on issues of mutual interest.
Follow up-
  • Joint discussion between VIF and CIRS on Afghanistan at track 1.5 level may also include National Security Advisory Board of India (NSAB).
  • A multilateral discussion on Afghanistan, including thinks tanks from other countries like Russia and Iran.
  • VIF-CIRS discussion on SCO and EAEU to explore avenues of cooperation.
IV. Discussion with Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies (ISRS) under the President of Uzbekistan

Participants from ISRS-
Mr. Alisher Kadirov, Head of Department, ISRS
Mr. Rustom Khuramov
Mr. Shukrat Saymeliv

  • Discussion with the ISRS was also focused mainly on Afghanistan.
  • Mr. Kadirov emphasized Uzbekistan’s constructive role in the post-Taliban takeover of Kabul.
  • He also expressed his concerns about the humanitarian crisis in the country. There is a United Nations Humanitarian Aid Center at Termez, and Uzbekistan is proactively providing assistance to this center.
  • Mr. Khuramov said that there are both moderate and hardliners within the Taliban, and coordinating dialogue with the Taliban is not considered recognition of the Taliban regime.
  • In order to consolidate power, the Taliban would follow the promise it made to its supporters.
Follow up
  • Discussion on Afghanistan
  • A webinar on India-Uzbekistan: prospects for expanding economic cooperation
  • A discussion on Connectivity between VIF and ISRS would also include think tanks from Iran and Afghanistan.
V. Discussion with the Vice-rector of Scientific Affairs and innovation, Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies, Dr. Nodir Abdullaev

Mr. Abdullaev gave a brief review of the work that has been going on in the different centers of the University. He also shared that they collaborate with World Bank, ERASMUS progamme, Europe, and USA youth project. And, they are also very keen to work with VIF.

  • The University is working on Sufism, especially on Chisti Silsila, which has also been very popular in India. Sufism may be a part of a joint study between VIF and Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies.
  • The University is also interested in studying and translating Turkic manuscripts of Babur times in Hindi, which are available in the National Museum New Delhi.
  • The center for mass communication at Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies is also interested in sharing knowledge in this area from Indian experts and journalists.
Follow up
  • A Webinar on India-Central Asia historical relations
  • Discussion on Sufism as an element of India-Central Asia cultural connect
  • A webinar on enhancing cooperation in media and mass communication.
Event Date 
November 24, 2021

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